A lot of the Society’s staff travels for work. We are a national organization and we collect material from all across the fifty states and Canada. Curators travel to conferences and to visit collectors, catalogers move about for training and to stay up to date with the latest methods, managers visit members, foundations, granting agencies, and vendors. Meetings and events are held regularly in Worcester, of course, but this past year we held a conference in Bordeaux, France, participated in collaborative exhibitions in Northampton and Boston, and gave papers or attended conferences in San Francisco, St. Louis, and London, England.
This past Tuesday several of us were on the move all at once, as you may have noticed if you follow the Society’s Instagram account. Two staffers were in California visiting donors and foundations while four others drove through snow and ice to Vermont to work out the details of a new digitization project. Another curator was in New York to attend a member’s opening and to visit with book dealers about possible acquisitions.
So what, you say? People travel all the time for work. The planes and highways are crowded with business activity every day. What is different about AAS? Nothing really…just consider this…Our founder Isaiah Thomas did not stay behind his desk in Worcester, often visiting Boston and Salem in his pursuit of interesting specimens of American printing. One of our early librarians was killed in a stage coach accident in Ohio while on a research trip. A later president traveled frequently to Central America to study archaeology there. We have been part of a global world since the beginning in 1812, not focusing on one region or state or city, but all of North America. How do you preserve the printed history of a continent? You have to move across it all the time, gathering, listening, talking, collecting. Staying home is not an option, even in the digital age.
Watching the planes cross the dawn sky in Southern California while shaking off jet-lag and knowing my colleagues were mucking through Vermont and the slushy specialness that can be the streets of New York made me think about the movement of acquisitors, of fundraisers, of ambassadors for the Society, not only on Tuesday, but for the past 201 years. Our willingness to get in a stagecoach, on a steamboat, a train, or a plane is part of the drive to make the Society a better, more comprehensive collection. Lucky us to be part of the long history of AAS road trips.